Long Lines as Comic Conventions Struggle to Meet Fans’ Demands

Part of the crowd during Youmacon 2023, Huntington Place, Detroit, MI. Photo by Katherine Warden

Part of the crowd during Youmacon 2023, Huntington Place, Detroit, MI. Photo by Katherine Warden

For many, the best part of going to an event like Youmacon or any Comic Con is meeting the actors and people behind some of their favorite characters. This ranges from everything from voice actors to live-action actors to various others. The recent strike from members of the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA), which just ended on Nov. 9th, impacted this year’s comic conventions.

Celebrity guests who appear at comic conventions appear for numerous reasons, ranging from nostalgic value to current works. The SAG-AFTRA strike impacted this by limiting the promotional material that these guests were allowed to promote or utilize. Actors of all varieties were allowed to still make appearances at conventions as long as they avoided any material or mentions of work done for studios that were a part of the strike. This meant that actors such as Richard Epcar (“Ghost in the Shell” and “Kingdom Hearts III”) and Tracy Lynn Cruz (“Power Rangers”) were allowed to attend conventions as long as they avoided promoting any new works that crossed the picket line. To compensate for this, comic conventions looked to a new market of guests: VTubers.

A large portion of the guests in attendance this year at Detroit’s Youmacon 2023 were virtual YouTubers who are online entertainers who are computer-generated characters who hide their re-life streamers. This year, Youmacon hosted a total of seventeen VTubers. Youmacon boasted that they are the first convention outside of Japan to hold TUBEOUT, a live VTuber virtual concert of various VTubers and other virtual performers that was live streamed on Nov. 3.

Youmacon is a comic convention driven by fans’ passion for Japanese pop culture, anime, video games, and costuming known as “cosplaying.” Youmacon has been held in Detroit since 2004.

The Writers Guild and SAG-AFTRA strikes impacted the San Diego Comic-Con where industry leading companies like Marvel Studio, Netflix, and HBO pulled major spots from the convention. The decision to pull from the event was based around the uncertainty of the WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. While the strikes caused issues with booking guests and studios, it didn’t stop fans from flocking to the event, eager to return after the pandemic temporarily suspended them.

With increasing attendance, comic conventions have struggled to accommodate the demand.

This year’s Los Angeles’ Anime Expo convention staff oversold tickets, causing immense overcrowding and safety concerns from fans and attendees. Major streets surrounding the Los Angeles Convention Center had to be closed to give space for attendees to walk into the convention. Long wait times in the 80° weather outside of the convention center was not relieved as crowds in the center became so large that con-goers were shoved shoulder-to-shoulder. As one con goer, Jin Yao, stated “You couldn’t move, especially around the corridors’ bottleneck areas getting in and out of the main halls.”

Youmacon for years has been referred to as “LineCon” by fans due to long wait times for badge registration and dealer hall entry. This year’s line for registration was perhaps one of the worst. Due to miscommunication between the Huntington Place staff members and Youmacon’s staff, the line was held up for hours.

Smaller comic conventions are also growing in popularity as evident by their A-list guest lists. Taking place on the same weekend as Youmacon this year was Grand Rapids Comic Con, a three day convention which has grown in popularity since its opening in October 2013. The focus is on “family-friendly” events, which is different from the events held at large conventions like Youmacon. The guest list this year included George Takei (“Star Trek”), Christopher Wehkamp (“My Hero Academia”). The convention had its own Artist Alley and Dealers Hall which were full of artists who previously had attended Youmacon.

Put on by Detroit Otaku, a Japanese pop-culture store out of Madison Heights, IsshoCon is a brand new anime convention that will be held during the last weekend in January 2024 at the Sheraton Hotel in Novi, Michigan, with both day and evening events. Attendees can look forward to Artist Alley, Dealers Halls, panels, and events such as an Ita Bag workshop, where attendees can learn more about the Japanese trend of decorating bags with pins, buttons, patches and keychains, as well as a Cosplay Masquerade Ball - a multi-tiered cosplay competition which spans a junior competition through an advanced competition and covers all skill levels - and the “Rave Together Stay Together” Rave, with special guest Obi Wan Shinobi a DJ who performs at various events and Comic Cons.

IsshoCon’s guest list includes fan favorite Jon St. John (Duke Nukem “Duke Nukem”) and Anairis Quiñones (Mirko “My Hero Academia”). Their list also includes a host of Cosplayers such as AMHCosplays, an award-winning cosplayer who founded “Cosplay over 40” which recognizes, encourages, and showcases cosplayers who have found or enjoys cosplaying over the age of forty. This supportive group spans across six continents and is now in its fifth year. Local cosplay idol Clover Aura will be there. Aura is a founding member of the Chocolate Idol Network (CIN), which promotes the visibility and support of Black Idols in the International Idol Communities.

More information on IsshoCon can be found on https://www.isshocon.com/.

The organizers for this Grand Rapids Comic Con are also putting on a similar Spring convention “Grand Rapids Comic Con Spring Flip - Road Trip” which will be held in Kalamazoo Michigan, April 12-14, 2024. More information is at https://www.grcomiccon.com/.

For more information regarding Youmacon visit https://www.youmacon.com/.